Central Library Will Use $10,000 Grant from Best Buy Foundation to Expand Services in Its STEM-Focused Afterschool Program for Teens

Students and Central Library staff as Best Buy Foundation personnel donate a $10,000 check to help expand
Central Library's STEM technology program for youth. Bottom photo (second from left): Lance Simpson,
Karyn Davis, regional HR manager for Best Buy, Monica White, and BPL director Angela Hall. 

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Best Buy Foundation, the Birmingham Public Library (BPL) is planning to add new services in its STEM-focused afterschool program for teens in its Central Library.

Since the summer of 2015, Central Library at 2100 Park Place has been collaborating with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Engineering to provide a weekly STEM-focused technology-based afterschool program for teens. BPL's system teen librarian, Lance Simpson, and grants writer, Carrie Campbell, joined with School of Engineering's director of outreach, Dr. Abidin Yildirim, and community volunteer, Keiah Shauku, to write a grant seeking funds to expand the program’s offerings.

Best Buy Foundation officials approved a grant for $10,000, which will be used to purchase microcomputers, robotics kits, and an array of other technological tools to facilitate teaching engineering concepts in the weekly afterschool program.

“Our partnership with UAB kicked off over the summer with a one-week STEM camp offered at the Central Library, and has continued on with a weekly afterschool program offered on Tuesdays,” Simpson said. “The funds from the grant will allow us to expand the program from our current curriculum to allow for more technology-driven classes, including teach teens basic computer coding languages, and practical application of coding through robotics.”

During the school year, BPL's Central branch hosts 70 to 90 children and teens daily after school. Most of these students attend Phillips Academy, a Birmingham City Schools magnet K-8 school located near the library.

“Our afterschool STEM program is designed to provide teens with dynamic out-of-school learning experiences that prepare them for future academic success in college and STEM careers, as well as to prepare them to be leaders of the 21st century workforce,” Simpson said. “Our work represents a concerted effort from UAB and BPL to invest in the education of Birmingham's teens.”

Lisa Sanders, general manager for Best Buy Mobile in Colonial Brookwood Village, said the Central Library STEM-based program is a perfect fit for the technology retailer’s desire to uplift the communities it serves.

“Best Buy Foundation is all about giving back to the communities where we live, work, and play,” Sanders said. “It is a partnership we want to have to help organizations and support their achievements in technology.”

Simpson said the Best Buy grant will enable Central Library to take its STEM technology program “to another level and enhance what we are doing. We will be able to show them how it is that they can take concepts of robotics and be prepared for future careers.”

Zo Shauku, a 9th grade homeschool student who participates in the Central Library STEM program, said the Best Buy Foundation donation will be an asset to students like him. Shauku says he wants to be an electrical engineer.

“I am very happy about it. I want to do more activities involving STEM; it will help me prepare for college.”

Elizabeth Green and William Holland, both students at Phillips Academy, said the STEM program has been a major benefit for students, teaching them technology skills that will pay off in high school and beyond.

“I like that we do a lot involving technology and STEM,” Holland said. “This grant is great because we can do more stuff that we could not without the money.”

More information regarding the grant from Best Buy can be found here: https://corporate.bestbuy.com/community-grants-page/.